International Journal of Art & Design Education

Design as Narrative: Objects, Stories and Negotiated Meaning

Volume 22.3   2003



The model of design taught in educational institutions in the United Kingdom and elsewhere has fundamental weaknesses. At best it is a partial and superficial description of what happens when individuals engage in the process of design. At worst it is inaccurate and misleading. The authors are working on multiple-perspective approaches to design education that emphasise the central importance of context to understanding design as human enterprise. In this paper, they introduce the idea of design as narrative. Like narratives, objects have power in social settings: they offer an interpretation of the story of their existence; they give back echoes of their past. To regard design objects as forms of text allows 'readers' to interpret them within their own frames of reference. The understanding that arises from this form of interpretation allows for creative involvement with objects and permits more realistic engagement with design work. It promotes a form of thinking that is personal, relevant and open to negotiated meaning in an otherwise increasingly prescriptive educational world.